The NBA is known for bad draft picks more than it is for lopsided trades. Bowie over Jordan? Oden over Durant? Trail Blazers fans must get sick on draft night at this point. But the NBA has also had their share of bad trades.
Bill Russell, drafted by the St Louis Hawks, was traded to Boston for Cliff Hagan and Ed Macauley. Russell led the Celtics to 11 titles in 13 years. It should also be noted here that Bill Russell was selected with the 2nd overall pick in the draft. Si Green, from Duquesne, was drafted #1 by the Rochester Royals. It seems no one saw the greatest Center in history right before their eyes.
Wilt Chamberlain wasn’t a bad Center either. The 76ers, however, decided to trade him to the Los Angeles Lakers for Jerry Chambers, Archie Clark, and Darrall Imhoff. It’s safe to say that LA made out in this deal. Wilt the Stilt was one of the top Centers in history while the other guys faded into NBA oblivion.
The New Jersey Nets, in 1976, were a team that was strapped for cash. The $3M expansion fee didn’t help that at all. They were forced to sell Dr J’s contract to the Philadelphia 76ers for $6M. Half of this paid the expansion fee, the other half went to Julius Erving. A smaller, somewhat unknown, aspect of this deal is that the Nets initially offered this to the New York Knicks. The Knicks turned it down. The rest, as they say, is history.
In 1980, the Boston Celtics had the #1 pick. But they coveted Golden State Warriors Center Robert Parish. Boston offered the #1 and #13 picks to Golden State in return for Parish and the #3 pick. Golden State drafted Joe Barry Carroll and Rickey Brown. The Celtics used their #3 pick to get some guy named Kevin McHale. Advantage: Boston.
Kobe Bryant was just a high school kid in 1996 when he decided to forego college and enter the NBA Draft. He was drafted in the 1st round, 13th overall pick, by the Charlotte Hornets. The Hornets were in dire need of a big man. This is where the Lakers come in. They offered Vlade Divac to the Hornets for the rights to Kobe. Vlade had a solid career, but Kobe became a legend, arguably the 2nd best shooting guard in history, after some guy named Michael.
There are so many more bad trades to consider here. But these stood out to me. Trades involving Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Charles Barkley are interesting reads as well. I always enjoy looking at how certain deals, whether they be trades, drafts, or free agent signings, shape the immediate future of teams, and sometimes the league itself. It’s easy for us to criticize, but the teams involved, and their GMs, are doing what they feel is best at the moment. Sometimes it’s in an effort to win, at other times it becomes a financial decision. We, the fans, are merely pawns in their game. But sometimes, the pawn life is pretty damned fun.